Ten years ago two prehistoric shipwrecks were discovered during construction work in Salme on the island of Saaremaa. It became apparent that these were Viking ships, which, after further research, completely rewrote the history of Vikings in Europe. Today the research has been completed and the findings are on hold in the Saaremaa Museum, where they will be put on display at the museum’s main exhibition in May this year. The exhibition of the findings from the Viking ships is part of a larger campaign – 2021 has been declared the Year of Vikings in Saaremaa.
Viking culture, having been associated exclusively with Scandinavia for decades, was actually much more spread out and influenced the everyday lives of people living on the Eastern shores of the Baltic Sea as well. Saaremaa used to be a geopolitically important stop for Scandinavian migrations and therefore deserves a spot on the map of Viking voyages. In light of the new discoveries made in the last decade, it can be safely assumed that Coastal Estonians played a much more important role in these affairs than Norse sagas and prehistoric sources would have you believe. The latest prehistoric findings show that the fearless seafarers of Saaremaa grew their might in unison with the ever developing warrior culture, which gave way to the Viking Age full of exploration and raids.
The Year of Vikings was conceived to acquaint people with Viking-related history, which includes the island of Saaremaa, Muhu and Ruhnu.
The Viking history of Saaremaa begins with the shipwrecks unearthed in Salme.
Today Salme holds an annual Viking Market.
About the emblem of the Year of Vikings
Although the emblem is in essence a traditional monogram (V and A for ViikingiAasta, Year of Vikings), more perceptive viewers will notice more to it. The first and largest element is the circle. Both the empty and filled circle are one of the oldest symbols in the world. An empty circle symbolises the Sun and the Moon. It carries a magical power protecting against evil forces. This symbol has been used around the world and has the same meaning in every culture – the Sun or something related to it, such as gold. It is one of the oldest symbols of the Sun. The circle embodies an unique enclosed area. Encompassing something in a visible or an invisible circle has been used extensively as a protective symbol in different religions and is related to the universal protective connotation of waist belts and rings. In Saaremaa for example it was believed that wearing something circular and protective creates a force field around the wearer, impenetrable even to snakes. Drawing a circle connotes binding and maintaining what’s inside. The 12 dots around the circle symbolise the year cycle, as it is the Year of Vikings.
The second element of the emblem is the shape resembling a diagonal cross. It can be interpreted as a multiplier, for example multiplying the good. A protective and conserving cross. The symbols inside the circle can be viewed as a tie between history and today. The symbol ties together all the upcoming events and ventures of the Year of Vikings in Saaremaa.
The simplistic geometric shapes refer to a time when literacy in its modern meaning was the privilege of a select few.
Its militaristic and archaic appearance depicts a Viking shield (their main protection in battle), the year cycle and people happily going hand-in-hand to the Maritime Days or the Viking Market in Salme.
The emblem essentially symbolises the events taking place on the Year of Vikings and calls upon people to come learn about the Viking history of Saaremaa. This is an artistic approach and the interpretation of the creators.
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